Dungeon Command: Blood of Grumish
Publisher: Wizards of the Coast
Cost: $39.99 ($26.39 at Amazon.com)
Release Date: 02/19/2013
Get It Here: Amazon.com
Blood of Grumish is the fifth entry in the Dungeon Command series but out by Wizards of the Coast. This game, which feels like a combination of Magic: The Gathering and the long defunct Dungeons & Dragons collectable miniatures game has been going on since the middle of July, but has been met by mixed reaction. A large portion of the fun of most miniatures games is the ability to collect and customize warbands. Whether they are small skirmish games like Heroclix or Mage Knight on down to large army based games like Warhammer, the ability to design your own armies is key to a successful product, much the same way making your own M:TG deck is important to the majority of people who play that game. Instead of offering this important aspect, Wizards has made five static warbands without any card or figure boosters to allow one to change things up. The end result has been a game that hasn’t really found a true audience. It also doesn’t help that four of the five warbands have been evil aligned, leaving only a single good aligned warband for people to use. Combine this with months between released and the fact that after a few games, everyone knows what each warband is capable of and it’s not a stretch of the imagination to say Dungeon Command has been a perfect example of how NOT to do a miniatures based game.
That’s not to say the game doesn’t have its perks. If you’re a fan of the co-operative adventure game series like Castle Ravenloft or The Legend of Drizzt, these sets have given you extra figures for those games, albeit it at a pricey $39.99 per set ($3.33 a figure!). It’s also nice to have some long out of print figures for the D&D Miniatures game back in print, although sporting a new paint job. This is a chance for players of that game to get figures they missed out on back in the day. Finally, the combination of cards and miniatures has been an interesting and fun experience, but again, the lack of customization and boosters has severely limited the replay and creative values of the game.
So here we are now with the fifth, and what looks to be final, entry in the Dungeon Command series. Blood of Grumish is an Orc themed deck. With eight of the twelve figures in this warband being actual Orcs, it’s a much better thematic mix than Tyranny of Goblins that threw together goblins, hobgoblins and bugbears (along with other figures) into a haphazard army that didn’t make sense by D&D terms. With Blood of Grumish your only non-Orc figures are an Ogre, an Owlbear, a Boar and a Wereboar. The latter two can fit because there is an Orc Druid on the team and the Ogre fits as we’ve seen Ogres and Orcs in the same armies in various forms for decades. The Owlbear is a bit odd, but just say it’s one of the Druid’s allies and call it a day. Overall, it’s a strong theme and I’m pretty happy with the set on paper.
Figure-wise I’m not as happy. Since all of these are redone sculpts from D&D Minis, I was surprised by some of the Orcs chosen. There were a LOT of Orcs released for that game over the years, many of which I felt were better sculpts tan the ones chosen here. That’s just one man’s opinion though, but I won’t deny these weren’t the Orcs I was hoping to see re-released here. Ah well, at least I already own the ones I want from various D&D Minis blisters.
While we’re on the figures, we should probably talk about the paint jobs. I understand the need to do a repaint so they stand out from the earlier versions of these figures, but the paint jobs in Dungeon Command have either not been up to the level of the old Minis game or have just been downright garish. Blood of Grumish has a few figures with these issues, although the overall paint job is probably the best out of all the sets so far. The Boar is probably the best figure in terms of painting and the Orcs look okay, although they are grey instead of green, which most people will find odd. Still the armour and detailing on the Orcs is better than on many figures in previous sets and so that is a step in the right direction. The last three though are just downright terrible. The Ogre looks to be suffering from jaundice and the paint job on things like his loin cloth or wristbands is just sloppy. It is NOT what I would call a professional job. The Wereboar is wearing orange leather like he killed and skinned a Sunkist grove and the paint job is equally sloppy. It looks worse than when I try painting figures and considering I literally do not have a sense of touch in my fingers…that’s not good. Finally there is the Owlbear. I love the sculpt, but wow, this is definitely a contender for the worst paint job in the entire Dungeon Command line. It’s like someone flicked a light brown/orange combo on the dark brown base paint job of the figure and then did the same to the back, but with black paint. It’s just an eyesore across the board. Well, at least the majority of the figures look decent, right?
Let’s talk Army Commanders next. Like all warbands, you have a choice of two leader cards. With Blood of Grumish you have either Drogar, Eye of Grumish or Lokar of the Stonelands. Both Lokar and Drogar’s creature hands are three, but Dorgar has a starting order hand of four instead of Lokar’s three. As we will see with the deck aspect of this warband, this alone will make Drogar the better choice. Drogar’s army Morale starts at 15 compared to Lokar’s 11, which is another big plus in his favour. Meanwhile Lokar does have a higher Leadership of 9 compared to Drogar’s 7 (the lowest in the game), so while this means Lokar can get his big guns out earlier, Blood of Grumish feels more like a set that does better the longer the game goes, meaning this isn’t that much of an advantage. So it’s pretty much a lock for Drogar as we come to special abilities. All Drogar does for his team is let them ignore difficult terrain, which is hit or miss depending on the tiles being used. Lokar however can deploy any one starting Orc on a Treasure Square. This sounds good at first until you remember that a) it can only be done at the start of the game and b) if you don’t draw any Orcs with your first hand, you basically don’t have a special ability for the game. At least Drogar’s lasts the whole game. So in a nutshell, Drogar is superior to Lokar in every way possible. Sure both are amongst the weakest Warband leaders in the entire game, but Drogar is the way to go here.
It’s now time to talk decks. I love both the creature and order decks, and they might be the best in the game but when you put them together, things fall apart. Why? Because they feel like they were designed autonomously from each other. Look at the creature deck. All twelve creatures have CON as a prime attribute. That’s awesome because it means a CON heavy order deck would be perfect for these guys. But Dungeon Command being Dungeon Command, only twelve of the thirty-six card deck are CON cards. That’s a third and a baffling decision to say the least. Meanwhile FIFTEEN of the cards (42% of the deck) are STR cards, and attribute only seven of the twelve cards have. This just boggles my mind and shows me that once again Dungeon Command completely falls apart when it comes to whoever designs and/or balances the decks. It’s the equivalent of having a Magic deck that is say, 75% red and 25% blue, yet the majority of land cards are islands. Like the Ogre paint job, this is just sloppy, sloppy, sloppy. There are also six WIS card, but only two creatures in the warband that have a WIS attribute. It’s a shame because all the WIS cards are pretty good, but the chance of getting to use them effectively, if at all, is slim. I would love to be in on the creative meetings behind this game because so many decisions regarding Dungeon Command just don’t make any sense. It’s a shame two because both decks are awesome when taken on their own – it’s just too bad they don’t work all that well together.
In terms of the actual creatures, I think Blood of Grumish might be the most balanced deck. The Death Strike attack of both boar based characters is one that will keep opposing players on the defensive while the Orc Druid and Orc Chieftain offer some nice board control options. All the characters in this warband are damage and Hit Point heavy meaning that they don’t need to worry about the Order deck if and when it bones them, the player can just rely on brute force. Hey, most players will take that, I’m sure.
The cards in the Order deck are pretty nice and this might be the most powerful deck yet. Many of the cards allow creatures to do extra damage and the Vorpal Sword pretty much gives you instant death attacks to whatever creature it is attached to (as long as it does 50 damage or more in a hit). There’s also a surprising amount of healing in this deck – the most out of any warband, which isn’t something you’d expect from an Orc theme. Seven of the CON cards, two of the WIS, and four of the STR either heal or prevent damage. That’s a third of the deck. Coupled with the high hit point totals in this warband and Blood of Grumish has some serious staying power. Unfortunately it does come down to fielding the right combination of creatures and cards and as both of those are up to the luck of the draw, the effectiveness of the warband will vary considerably.
Overall, in spite of the serious issues Blood of Grumish can have at times, I’d probably rate it the third best set in the game (out of five). The Undead warband is still by far the most powerful (and coolest). I’d also put Heart of Cormyr over this, but just barely and only because its Order deck is better balanced. With slight tweaking, Blood of Grumish could have been as overpowered as Curse of Undeath. Blood of Grumish is still a far better choice than Tyranny of Goblins or Sting of Lolth though and in the end, if this is the last warband produced for Dungeon Command, it’s interesting that this one typifies both the good and bad extremes of the concept. I do hope the series will continue, but that’s only going to happen if Wizards wakes up and realizes what makes miniatures games sell (and last) and they get some better people working on the card aspect of the game.
If you’re interested in reading my other Dungeon Command warband reviews here are the links: